Ghost of the Crystal part 2
Tyrin clapped his weathered hands together. The sharp sound was followed by a moment of silence; even the dull thrum of insects paused for breath. The three faces of his fellow gelflings, all turned towards him in entrancement, made Tyrin crack a smile. If there was anything members of the Sifa clan loved more than exploration, it was regaling others with tales of adventure. Tyrin was no exception.
"I could smell the dendrie's rotting breath as its jaws closed a hair from my face. Luckily for me, Jag-Ben had heard our struggle and grabbed the beast by the tail. They fought and wrestled, but in the end, the beast succumbed to Jag-Ben's strength."
One of the mesmerized gelflings erupted into a hearty, convivial laughter, holding one thick, hairy hand to his round belly. He had a hint of deep green about his features that made him appear wilder than the others. "That's quite the tale, Tyrin! I hardly recognized meself in the story," Jag-Ben said after his laughter died down.
"Then it's true?" one of the others asked. Her slight build was framed in a dark tunic and snuggled into a blanket near the fire. The only thing darker than her skin were her pitch-black eyes, wide with wonder.
"Oh, o' course it's true, Kleo," Jag-Ben told her. "Only this particular dendrie was about as long as yer forearm, from snout to tip."
"Can't fault me for embellishing a little," Tyrin said as he sat down on a log. He grabbed the last skewer from over the fire and inspected the indistinct char on it that had once been meat. "Stories are always more interesting than reality. I'm sure we will all hear our fill of fantastic tales once we are at The Gathering. I, for one, would love to hear what tales a warrior like one of the Spriton would share."
"If they dunna kill us before we leave their forest," Jag-Ben warned and trained his eyes on the canopy.
"The Gathering is tomorrow and so near their lands. There's never been anything like it before. I doubt even they would attack a traveler right now," Tyrin said.
"I'm not so sure. They're a violent bunch, them Spritons. Very territorial."
A shiver ran through Kleo as she, too, began to peer about the clearing with her dark gaze. Tyrin put the skewer, meat and all, back over the fire. "How about some music, Minn?" He nodded at their final companion
The third gelfling nodded and began to play an exotic, wavering melody on the instrument that sat in his lap. It was made from a string that had been stretched along a bent rod. A gourd was attached at one end with a hole that had been bored into it. With one hand he manipulated the string, the other struck it repeatedly with a slender shaft. As he played, he watched the fire from behind pale fabrics that covered his body and face, leaving room only for his eyes. A sparkling cloak of fine crystalweave had been wrapped around him to keep him warm against the night air. Curled up at his feet was a small creature, hardly more than a gelfling's leg in length, with a slender body and a tail nearly twice as long. Its pointed ears flicked about whenever a certain note was played, but its eyes remained closed.
"Ya know, there are some stories that dunna need embellishing," Jag-Ben said. He stood up and wandered about the fire. "There is a tale among us Drenchen of a spirit what likes to eat young gelflings. None has ever seen this ghost, this Trapper, and lived ta tell of it. But sometimes at night, we can hear him gnawing at the bones of 'is latest kill." He waved his hairy hands over the fire and lurched towards Kleo with a guttural growl, who squealed and pressed up against Minn. Minn's hand slipped and struck an off-note before he ceased the music. Although he didn't seem to mind the girl against his side, the creature at his feet flattened both ears in mild annoyance and thumped her tail on his leg.
"We have a similar story," Tyrin said. "Only, we call him 'The Hunter.'"
"The Hunter is in our legends, too," Minn said in a sing-song voice. As he spoke, his hands formed eldritch symbols in the air.
Tyrin swung a gemshorn off his shoulder. It was made from the ribbed tip of a mounder horn. His clothing was nearly as worn as his hands. Each loose stitch, knick, and faded patch told the story of days traveling beneath the three suns. Even the rich color of the old horn had been bleached almost completely out of the instrument. "What do your people tell of this spirit?" he asked, then put the wide, blocked end of the gemshorn to his lips and played a simple, yet haunting melody to set the mood.
"Well, we know the Trapper is tall and heavy," Jag-Ben said as he paced around, "from the size o' the footprints and trails he leaves behind."
"Footprints?" asked Kleo, perking up some. "Spirits don't leave footprints."
"Well, I've never seen the footprints meself. I believe it ta be just a mother's tale ta frighten 'er children."
"What else do they say?" Minn asked with a flourish of his hand and settled against Kleo. Jag-Ben was only too happy to continue.
"Legend 'as it that the only sound ya can hear from the ghost is heavy breathing. But by the time ya hear it, it's too late. No matter where ya go, ya'll end up in a trap. I 'ad a cousin who said she heard it once. She was with some friends collecting reeds. Before they knew it, half o' them were gone. And then she heard the breathing right behind her. She ran and-"
The creature at Minn's feet pulled its ears back and growled. Minn ran his hand along her back. "What's wrong, Prril? Is something out there?" A moment later, a loud crack sounded in the woods. Tyrin lowered the gemshorn as the gelflings all looked around the woods. Another crack, closer than the first, narrowed down their search. Prril moved in a graceful flash of sandy fur, balancing on her master's shoulder as she bared her teeth and arched her body. After a third snap, they could all hear footsteps crunching along the ground in haste.
[ Link to Part 1 ] -- [ Link to Part 3 ]
[ Link to Part 1 ] -- [ Link to Part 3 ]